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Sweeney Blasts $9m Payday For Blue Cross Chief

Senate President Calls for Hearing Into ‘Obscene and Excessive’ Executive Pay At Non-Profit Health Insurance Provider

Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney today criticized Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Jersey chief William Marino’s nearly $9 million compensation package, calling for legislative hearings into how the compensation could be justified at a time when the insurer was raising premiums to cover higher costs.

“Million-dollar private-sector CEO salaries are nothing new, but a $9 million payout to the head of a supposed not-for-profit organization is simply obscene, excessive and offensive,” said Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Cumberland/Salem). “While premiums are going up, the last thing executives should be looking to do is pad their own pockets.”

According to published reports, Marino received $934,615 in base salary and roughly $7.8 million in bonuses last year. In addition to Marino, Horizon’s nine highest-paid executives received more than $24 million in compensation in 2009 – raises that averaged 61 percent.

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield provides health coverage to roughly 72 percent of New Jersey residents and 52 percent of small businesses in the state. Last year, small business premiums with the provider increased between 20 and 30 percent, on average, according to the state Department of Banking and Insurance; one small business owner from Freehold said her premium from the insurer increased 60 percent.

Sweeney said he will ask Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono, chair of the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee, to hold hearings into the issue of executive pay at the not-for-profit health care provider.

“When people and businesses get hit with a premium hike, the last thing they should expect is for that money to end up in someone’s paycheck,” said Sweeney. “Something is horribly out-of-whack in Horizon’s executive suite.”

Sweeney also noted that under the Governor’s proposed budget, Marino also would receive a $137,676 income tax cut. Meanwhile, moderate- and low-income seniors will face more than $1,300 in higher property taxes, a new $310 prescription drug co-pay and a 114 percent increase in prescription co-pays.

“Our seniors are trying to figure out how they are going to pay higher property taxes, higher prescription drug costs and put food on their table and the head of the state’s leading health insurer is getting a tax cut that’s more money than many of those families will ever see,” said Sweeney. “That blows up the Governor’s whole talking point of ‘shared sacrifice.’ It doesn’t make any sense.”